Unicef sees end of polio in Pakistan

Published October 10, 2021
In this 2015 file photo, a healthworker gives polio vaccines to children in the suburbs of Lahore. — AP/File
In this 2015 file photo, a healthworker gives polio vaccines to children in the suburbs of Lahore. — AP/File

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Executive Director of Unicef Omar Abdi has said his organisation sees the possibility of an end to polio in Pakistan as only one polio case has been reported in the country this year.

Talking to Dawn at the end of his visit to Pakistan, Mr Abdi said: “We have been looking at the trend for the last 20 years and twice before we came this close, but now we are closest to the finish line.”

There is a commitment from the government to eradicate polio, and vaccines continue to arrive in Pakistan; as a result, cases are going down. Samples from sewerage now showed less percentage of positivity, the Unicef official said.

Official says with one case reported this year ‘we’re closest to the finish line’

About the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Abdi, a national of Somalia who served in Unicef Pakistan 15 years ago, was pleased to note that Pakistan had remarkably responded to the pandemic with leadership coordination among different parts of the government at federal, provincial and district levels.

Mr Abdi also visited a vaccination centre in Islamabad and said it was encouraging to see that 30 million people in Pakistan were fully vaccinated, while over 60 million had received one dose of Covid-19 vaccine. As more vaccine doses arrive in the country, the rollout of the vaccine would cover a million people a day.

The Unicef official said that nutrition was an area where Pakistan continued to face significant challenges. The prevalence of stunting is very high — at about 40 per cent. Likewise, the prevalence of wasting is very high as the number of children under-weight is also very high.

Referring to his meeting with Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Dr Sania Nishtar, the Unicef official stated that nutrition was not just related to access to food but it was a multi-sectoral issue, covering health, water and sanitation and they all together contributed to the nutritional status.

Mr Omar Abdi, who visited Afghanistan before traveling to Islamabad, said the migration of Afghans to Pakistan, Iran and other countries will begin if situation in Afghanistan did not improve.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2021

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